Thailand’s regulator has launched a libel suit against the vice-president of the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI), Dr Duenden Nikomborirak, seeking separate counts of one and two years imprisonment.
Also sued for libel was the Thai PBS television talk show host who interviewed Dr Duenden.
This brings to a new low the rocky relationship between the NBTC and one of the country’s most well-known think-tanks.
The particular accusations center around Dr Duenden’s claim that the NBTC’s recently issued consumer protection notification that effectively extends TrueMove’s 2G concession for one more year has cost the country up to 160 billion baht ($4.96 billion) from a delayed rollout of 4G LTE on 1800.
NBTC telecoms chair Colonel Setthapong Malisuwan, who initiated the lawsuit, said that had been no official estimate on the value of the 4G spectrum and at no time was there any official statement as to the date of the 4G auction.
However, numerous media reports put him on the record in late 2012 saying that the 1800 auction was to have been conducted before the end of the concessions. TrueMove’s 15-year concession ends on 15 September 2013. Previous regulators and finance ministers were adamant that the concessions could neither be extended nor terminated early by laws that were put in place designed to force Thailand from a concessionary model to a licensed model.
The TDRI has long been a thorn in the side of the NBTC and TrueMove, coming out strongly criticising the fixing of last year’s 3G auction by lowering the spectrum cap to pre-empt any competitive bidding and by shedding light on TrueMove H 3G’s 850-MHz 3G contract.
It was the TDRI’s then VP Dr Somkiat Tangkitvanich who pointed out that while CAT was ostensibly the MNO and TrueMove H the MVNO, CAT had subcontracted the entire network to TrueMove (through its subsidiary BFKT) which deployed and operated without any license.
All CAT provided was the passive infrastructure and all decisions as to network capacity or what could be mounted on the cell towers fell to True, not CAT. Since then, an NBTC committee has found True to have been unintentionally operating a network without a license and recommended that the telco not be punished.
NBTC commissioner Supinya Klangnarong said that while it was supposedly the NBTC that launched the lawsuit, the full 11-member board had not been consulted on the matter. She said that she would gladly testify on Dr Duenden’s behalf against her fellow commissioners when the time came.